Ancient World Maps – How Do They Work

ancient world maps

Ancient world maps are still used today in navigation, as the most accurate information about our planet can still be found in maps from long ago. Maps have been around since the time of the Egyptians, who created the first known map of the early Mediterranean in the 10th century BCE with the Phoenician Sea as a reference. This is the map that gave the Western world knowledge of our route to the east. The ancient world also had maps, most likely compiled by Greek expeditionary forces from their victorious campaigns against the Persian Empire in Asia Minor.

An Overview

A man sitting on a bench

The earliest known ancient world maps date from classical antiquity, roughly the earliest examples of the 5th to 6th centuries BCE. These maps do not reflect anything like modern cartography, because they are mostly just basic outline drawings of continents, cities, and other major landforms. However, they do provide some insight into the ancient cultures of the time, and they show what the people knew about themselves. From this information, the routes of their victorious wars are reconstructed.

Before these ancient world maps were made, most people on the planet knew little about how the world worked. They depended on astrology for all their predictions. The ancient world maps show exactly where ancient peoples believed the earth was, and where they expected it to go. One of the most famous maps makes you look at the world in an entirely new light. You see the routes of ancient civilizations through the Mediterranean and understand that these places were not static. They were always changing and growing.


A person sleeping in a dark room

Another ancient map, this time from the ancient Mediterranean, shows a completely different view of how the world used to work. The orientation of this map makes you see the Mediterranean and the seas as a whole, rather than being limited to the coastline of Egypt and Greece. This gives a much more comprehensive view of how the ancient peoples understood the world.

Ancient world maps are very useful today because they tell us how people traveled back and forth between the Mesopotamian and the Nile Valley civilizations. We also now have detailed maps of the far east, of North Africa, and the Middle East. These detailed maps allow us to appreciate the trade that went on between these ancient civilizations. Trade was vital to all of these ancient world civilizations because it allowed them to become more powerful. Without commerce, no society could have developed, and all of the great cultures of the past would be nothing like what we have today.


There is one more important place to find ancient maps which is the world’s oceans. The oceans have played an important role in human civilization from the times of the Egyptians and Greeks. Maps of the ocean floor show us ancient trade routes, and how ancient peoples transported things between the islands that make up the Mediterranean. The most important of these maps are called the cherry maps, and they are still used today as navigational tools.

Now, let’s look at how the ancient world map works. All of the ancient cartographers worked from actual measurements taken from the earth. They then created maps from these measurements, which gave them accurate information about where to go and which way back. They also needed to know about how the terrain worked, and what kind of climate each place was. This combination of knowledge came from hundreds of years of work by dozens of authors. All of this information came into the book known as the world map, and you will find this particular classic in most public libraries.


Now that you know a little bit more about how these ancient maps worked, you can put the information into your own hands and use it to learn about the ancient world. Just think how interesting it would be to get a glimpse of how people lived in the past. You can learn about the cultures and societies of the early world and get a better idea of how the trade routes were formed. Now that you know a little more about world maps, you can put this all in your hands and learn all you want to about ancient world cartography!

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